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Culture

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Who’s Playing NXNE: Notes to Self

MC Roshin talks about the evolution of Toronto's hip-hop scene, and what that means for the genre at NXNE.

Forget compasses, GPS, or helpful Sherpas. From June 11 to 17, Torontoist is here to be your guide to everything NXNE.

Image courtesy of the artists.

Notes to Self
The Rivoli (334 Queen Street West)
June 13, 10:50 p.m.
Click here for NXNE wristband pricing options.

East End rap crew Notes to Self have been local scene stalwarts for the better part of a decade. This year, they’ll be returning to North by Northeast as part of the massive SmashMouth Entertainment showcase at the Rivoli, where they’ll be sharing the stage with nine other acts from across North America. One quarter of the crew, Roshin, talked to Torontoist about the maturation of the city’s hip-hop scene, and what that means for the genre at North by Northeast. Our edited, condensed interview is after the jump.

Torontoist: How did you wind up at NXNE this year?

Roshin: We were contacted directly by Brendan Hewko from SmashMouth, who’s a guy we talk to a lot—a really, really great up-and-coming promoter in this city. He brought up the first Smoker’s Club tour and the Stalley dates that just happened, and we were talking to him about doing some other stuff in the future, and he said, “I’d really like to get you guys on the showcase.” So we said, “Dope, let’s do it.”

It feels like there’s more hip-hop as a whole this year. Do you think NXNE is finally starting to get on to things other than indie rock?

I know, I can’t wait to see Killer Mike. That’ll be dope…. I think it’s hard sleeping on music once it gets to a certain place. Music grows up, promoters grow up, and venues grow up.

Places like the Crawford, Wrongbar, and the Rivoli are becoming staple spots for hip-hop in the way that places like the Horseshoe have been for rock for ages and ages. That’s great to see. I mean, I’m not biased. I love music as a whole, so I don’t want to see an all-rap North by Northeast.

It’s cool that the SmashMouth showcase, it’s pretty much all blog rappers. So it’s a South by Southwest–style show…. You’ve got guys from New York, D.C., Toronto, the rest of Ontario, and Vancouver, and all good-quality artists.

Do you think the fact that more local rappers are getting internationally recognized is helping the genre at NXNE?

That’s a good question. Maybe indirectly? I don’t know how much of a conscious thing it is. I think it has more to do with the fact promoters are doing a better job representing it. SmashMouth, Droppin’ Knowledge, and I Luv Lola are all doing these big, well-done rap shows, so there’s no longer a monopoly on it like there was for years. There are these good, independent promoters, which are the kind of people that North by reaches out to…. Although, obviously, Drake and The Weeknd blowing the fuck up doesn’t hurt at all, but it’s a circular thing.

The SmashMouth show is huge in terms of the number of artists. Who are you excited to be working with on that?

Obviously I have to shout out Rich Kidd, because he’s the homie and I love the fact that he’s headlining at 2:30 in the morning. That’s hilarious to me. I’m going to stay and drink until 4 a.m. In terms of out-of-town guys, there’s a guy, Denzil Porter, who’s coming in. He’s been up on the blogs a lot lately. He had a song called “Kanye West” that was really dope. The other guy is T.Shirt, who’s just really raw New York hip-hop. It’ll be great to just meet guys like that and kind of build with them. Denzil actually got in on Friday and played Rich’s solo show that he just had, and he’s just kind of hanging and working with guys. It’s great to see guys from New York and other cities just come up here and kind of build. It says a lot as to where we’re at as a community. Artists in Toronto are the guys that people are respecting in the industry right now.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at NXNE?

Killer Mike for sure. It’s weird to say, but Raekwon and Ghostface, because I’ve never seen them before. It just never worked out. That free show is going to be epic for me. I’ve seen Method Man, but he’s the only member of the Wu-Tang I’ve seen live. When I got into rap, I was too young to see them on those early tours, like for Wu-Tang Forever. There’s a lot of bands I’d like to see, but I don’t know how many of them I’m actually going to check out, because I’ll be busy working with a lot of these guys.

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